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Full well they laughed with counterfeited glee
That one small head could carry all he knew.” There are certain whimsical traits in the character of Byrne not given in the foregoing sketch. He was fond of talking of his vagabond wanderings in foreign lands; and had brought with him from the wars a world of campaigning stories, of which he was generally the hero, and which he would deal forth to his wondering scholars when he ought to have been teaching them their lessons.
These traveler's tales had a powerful effect upon the vivid imagination of Goldsmith, and awakened an unconquerable passion for wandering, and seeking adventure. Byrne was, moreover, of a romantic vein, and exceedingly superstitious. He was deeply versed in the fairy superstitions which abound in Ireland; all which he professed implicitly to believe. Under his tuition, Goldsmith soon became almost as great a proficient in fairy lore. From this branch of good-for-nothing knowledge, his studies, by an easy transition, extended to the histories of robbers, pirates, smugglers, and the whole race of Irish rogues and rapparees. Every thing, in short, that savored of romance, fable, and adventure, was congenial to his poetic mind, and took instant root there, but the slow plants of useful knowledge were apt to be overrun, if not choked, by the weeds of his quick imagination.
Another trait of his motley preceptor, Byrne, was a disposition to dabble in poetry; and this, likewise, was caught by his pupil. Before he was eight years old, Goldsmith had contracted a habit of scribbling verses on small scraps of paper, which, in a little while, he would throw into the fire. A few of these sibylline leaves, however, were rescued from the flames, and conveyed to his mother. The good woman read them with a mother's delight, and saw at once that her son was a genius and a poet. From that time, she beset her husband with solicitations to give the boy an education suitable to his talents. The worthy man was already straitened by the costs of instruction of his eldest son Henry, and had intended to bring his second son up to a trade. But the mother would listen to no such thing: as usual, her influence prevailed; and Oliver, instead of being instructed in some humble but cheerful and gainful handicraft, was devoted to poverty and the Muse.
A severe attack of the small-pox caused him to be taken from under the care of his story-telling preceptor, Byrne. His malady had nearly proved fatal; and his face remained pitted through life. On his recovery, he was placed under the charge of the Rev. Mr. Griffin, schoolmaster of Elphin, in Roscommon; and became an inmate in the house of his uncle, John Goldsmith, Esq., of Ballyonghter, in that vicinity. He now entered upon studies of a higher order, but without making any uncommon progress. Still a careless, easy facility of disposition, an amusing eccentricity of manners, and a vein of quiet and peculiar humor, rendered' him a general favorite; and a trifling incident soon induced his uncle's family to concur in his mother's opinion of his genius.
A number of young folks had assembled at his uncle's to dance. One of the company, named Cummings, played on the violin. In the course of the evening, Oliver undertook a hornpipe. His short and clumsy figure, and his face pitted and discolored with the small-pox, rendered him a ludicrous figure in the eyes of the musician, who made merry at his expense, dubbing him his little Æsop. Goldsmith was nettled by the jest, and, stopping short in the hornpipe, exclaimed,
“Our herald hath proclaimed this saying,
See Æsop dancing, and his monkey playing." The repartee was thought wonderful for a boy of nine years old; and Oliver became, forth with, the wit and the bright genius of the family. It was thought a pity he should not receive the same advantages with his elder brother Henry, who had been sent to the university; and, as his father's circumstances would not afford it, several of his relatives, spurred on by the representations of his mother, agreed to contribute towards the expense. The greater part, however, was borne by his uncle, the Rev. Thomas Cantarine. This worthy man had been the college companion of Bishop Berkeley, and was possessed of moderate means, holding the living of Carrick-on-Shannon. He had married the sister of Goldsmith's father, but was now a widower, with an only child, - a daughter, named Jane. Cantarine was a kind-hearted man, with a generosity beyond his means. He took Goldsmith into favor from his infancy. His daughter Jane, two years older than the poet, was his early playmate; and Uncle Cantarine continued to the last one of his most active, unwavering, and generous friends.
Fitted out in a great measure by this considerate relative, Oliver was now transferred to schools of a higher order to prepare him for the university, - first to one at Athlone, kept by the Rev.
Mr. Campbell; and, at the end of two years, to one at Edgeworthstown, under the superintendence of the Rev. Patrick Hughes. Even at these schools, his proficiency does not appear to have been brilliant. He was indolent and careless, however, rather than dull; and, on the whole, appears to have been well thought of by his teachers. In his studies, he inclined towards the Latin poets and historians; relished Ovid and Horace, and delighted in Livy. He exercised himself with pleasure in reading and translating Tacitus; and was brought to pay attention to style in his compositions by a reproof from his brother Henry, to whom he had written brief and confused letters, and who told him in reply, that, if he had but little to say, to endeavor to say that little well.
The career of his brother Henry at the university was enough to stimulate him to exertion. He seemed to be realizing all his father's hopes, and was winning collegiate honors that the good man considered indicative of his future success in life.
In the mean while, Oliver, if not distinguished among his teachers, was popular among his schoolmates. He had a thoughtless generosity extremely captivating to young hearts. His temper was quick and sensitive, and easily offended; but his anger was momentary, and it was impossible for him to harbor resentment. He was the leader of all boyish sports and athletic amusements, especially ball-playing; and he was foremost in all mischievous pranks. Many years afterward, an old man, Jack Fitzsimmons, one of the directors of the sports, and keeper of the ball-count, at Ballymahon, used to boast of having been schoolmate of “ Noll Goldsmith," as he called him; and would dwell with vain-glory on one of their exploits in robbing the orchards of Tirlicken, an old family residence of Lord Annaby.
The exploit, however, had nearly involved disastrous consequences; for the crew of juvenile depredators were captured, like Shakspeare and his deer-stealing colleagues: and nothing but the respectability of Goldsmith's connections saved him from the punishment that would have awaited more plebeian delinquents.
An amusing incident is related as occurring in Goldsmith's last journey homeward from Edgeworthstown. His father's house was about twenty miles distant: the road lay through a rough country, impassable for carriages. Goldsmith procured a horse for the journey; and a friend furnished him with a guinea for traveling-expenses. He was but a stripling of sixteen; and being thus suddenly mounted on horseback, with money in his pocket, it is no wonder that his head was turned. He determined to play the man, and to spend his money in independent traveler's style. Accordingly, instead of pushing directly for home, he halted for the night at the little town of Andagh, and, accosting
the first person he met, inquired with somewhat of a consequential air for the best house in the place. Unluckily, the person he had accosted was one Kelly, a notorious wag, who was quartered in a family of one Mr. Featherstone, a gentleman of fortune. Amused with the self-consequence of the stripling, and willing to pay off a practical joke at his expense, he directed him to what was literally “the best house in the place;" namely, the family mansion of Mr. Featherstone. Goldsmith, accordingly, rode
to what he supposed to be an inn; ordered his horse to be taken to the stable; walked into the parlor, seated himself by the fire, and demanded what he could have for supper. On ordinary occasions, he was diffident, and even awkward in his manners: but here he was at ease in his inn; and he felt called upon to show his manhood, and enact the experienced traveler. His person was by no means calculated to play off his pretensions ; for he was short and thick, with a pock-marked face, and an air and carriage by no means of a distinguished cast. The owner of the house, however, soon discovered his whimsical mistake, and, being a man of humor, determined to indulge it, especially as he accidentally learned that this intruding guest was the son of an old acquaintance,
Accordingly, Goldsmith was a fooled to the top of his bent,” and permitted to have full sway throughout the evening. Never was schoolboy more elated. When supper was served, he most condescendingly insisted that the landlord, his wife and daughter, should partake; and ordered a bottle of wine to crown the repast, and benefit the house. His last flourish was on going to bed, when he gave especial orders to have a hot cake at breakfast. His confusion and dismay on discovering, the next morning, that he had been swaggering in this free-and-easy way in the house of a private gentleman, may be readily conceived. True to his habit of turning the events of his life to literary account, we find this chapter of ludicrous blunders and cross-purposes dramatized many years afterward in his admirable comedy of “She Stoops to Conquer; or, The Mistakes of a Night."
HISTORY OF NEW YORK.
DESCRIPTION OF THE WORLD. ACCORDING to the best authorities, the world in which we dwell is a huge, opaque, reflecting, inanimate mass, floating in the vast ethereal ocean of infinite space:
It has the form of an orange, being an oblate spheroid curiously flattened at opposite parts for
the insertion of two imaginary poles, which are supposed to penetrate, and unite at the center; thus forming an axis on which the mighty orange turns with a regular diurnal revolution.
The transitions of light and darkness, whence proceed the alternations of day and night, are produced by this diurnal revolution, successively presenting the different parts of the earth to the rays of the sun. The latter is, according to the best, that is to say the latest accounts, a luminous or fiery body of a prodigious magnitude, from which this world is driven by a centrifugal or repelling power, and to which it is drawn by a centripetal or attractive force, otherwise called the attraction of gravitation; the combination, or rather the counteraction, of these two opposing impulses, producing a circular and annual revolution. Hence result the different seasons of the year; viz., spring, summer, autumn, and winter.
This I believe to be the most approved modern theory on the subject : though there be many philosophers who have entertained very different opinions; some, too, of them entitled to much deference from their great antiquity and illustrious character. Thus it was advanced by some of the ancient sages, that the earth was an extended plain, supported by vast pillars; and by others, that it rested on the head of a snake or 'the back of a huge tortoise: but, as they did not provide a resting-place for either the pillars or the tortoise, the whole theory fell to the ground for want of proper foundation.
The Brahmins assert that the heavens rest upon the earth, and the sun and moon swim therein like fishes in the water, moving from east to west by day, and gliding along the edge of the horizon to their original stations during night: while, according to the puranas of India, it is a vast plain, encircled by seven oceans of milk, nectar, and other delicious liquids; that it is studded with seven mountains, and ornamented in the center by a mountainous rock of burnished gold; and that a great dragon occasionally swallows up the moon, which accounts for the phenomena of lunar eclipses.
Besides these and many other equally sage opinions, we have the profound conjectures of ABOUL HASSAN-ALY, son of Al Khan, son of Aly, son of Abderrahman, son of Abdallah, son of Masoud-el-Hadheli
, who is commonly called Masoudi, and surnamed Cothbiddin, but who takes the humble title of Lahebar-rasoul, which means the companion of the ambassador of God. He has written a universal history, entitled “Mourondgeed-dharab; or, The Golden Meadows and the Mines of Precious Stones." In this valuable work he has related the history of the world, from the creation down to the moment of writing; which was under the Khaliphat of Mothi Billah, in the month Dgiou